Interview with Lorenz Textor cocoaMySQL creator

M: Hi Lorenz, welcome. L: Thanks a lot for inviting me to this interview…

M: When was cocoaMySQL born, and how long did it take to code it? L: CocoaMySQL was born when I worked for a year in Florence, Italy, some day in 2001. Actually I’m a student of architecture and programming is only a hobby for me. I have done already quite a lot of php work before, but I always wanted to learn coding a “real” application. So I took the chance which Apple gave us by including great developer tools with their OS and started working on CocoaMySQL. I was using MySQL often together with PHP and websites, and I think that phpMyAdmin is a really great tool which will always have more features than CocoaMySQL, but it isn’t a native OS X GUI and there was no real alternative to it. OS X was very new in these days and there weren’t a lot of Cocoa Applications yet. So I decided to develop a graphical MySQL client myself! I cannot say how much time it took to code it because I often worked in the evenings/nights and in the weekends, but it was a lot. As it was my first Cocoa Applications I spent hours of googling and reading mail lists. On the other side I was very impressed how simple it is writing an application in Cocoa, and how few lines of code you need to write complex GUI logic! So after a few weeks I realized that what started as an exercise could become a useful application…

M: Many MySQL GUI software houses fear cocoaMySQL today. To name one, Navcat has started buying adSense advertisement from google publicizing “cocoaMySQL replacement”, and this shows just how many search hits your software gets on search engines. Do you think that cocoaMySQL, and open source in general, will grow to the point of sending many software houses to bankruptcy, or do you believe that the two phenomenon (commercial and open source programs) can coexist forever? L: This Google ad is really funny! ;-) Actually I don’t hope that all those software houses bankrupt. There are a lot of those who sell bad software for way too much money, but there is also a lot of good commercial software. I don’t think that big applications such as Adobe Photoshop could be developed entirely by open-source developers, it would be just too expensive for them. What I hope is that the big software houses and the open source community come closer together and that they work on open source projects too as this is done e.g. by Apple which uses a lot of open source tools in their OS X. Another good solution is that the software is free, but you have to pay for support, or for new features which then will be implemented in the public releases (as it is with many Linux distributions). So there could be more software houses which produce open source software but don’t have to work free of charge.

M: Hundred of web agencies use cocoaMySQL every day. A few of those are experiencing some bugs in the database dump procedures. Were you aware of this problem? L:. There are some bugs in the current version, not just in the dump procedures. It is difficult to develop such a general application as CocoaMySQL where you have no idea what version of MySQL the user will connect to, or what settings he uses, or what table structures he works with. As I have very few time to spend on CocoaMySQL it is impossible for me to test it enough with all types of configurations. Therefore I’m happy that a lot of people write me indicating problems, requesting new features or telling me what is working just as they want it to. Then I will try to fix as much bugs as possible for the next release… M: CocoaMySQL misses a good part of MySQL server administration, user creation, privileges and so on are left to the work of a good MySQL Administrator. On the other hand, we believe that if cocoaMySQL implemented these capabilities as well, you could have just one app to manage MySQL and that would result in saving a ton of time. Would you be interested in implementing these capabilities as well, some day? L: Actually user administration was one of the things I planned to work on for the next release, and it was requested from many users. Then I saw that the official MySQL administration utility exists for Mac OS X too and that it is designed to do exactly these jobs, so I think maybe CocoaMySQL remains the tool for working with databases and tables, and the admin work can be done with the MySQL administrator tool. But I have to test that application a bit more first, and if I’m not happy with it maybe I will think again about implementing that in CocoaMySQL.

M: How many downloads did CocoaMySQL have, and in how much time? Did you expect such numbers? L: If the sourceforge.net statistics are right version 0.5 had over 95’000 download till now, and all versions including source downloads nearly 120’000. If you had told me those numbers when I started with CocoaMySQL I would have thought you’re making fun of me. I would have been happy with 1000 downloads in these days…

M: Have you thought about new projects and who are you thinking of working on them with? L: Unfortunately I haven’t even enough time to work on CocoaMySQL. The last official release was in 2003-09-11 and I worked very few on it in the last year. I hope to release a new version working with MySQL 4.1 later this year… If I had the time I’d like to work on a project together with other developers around the world, but currently I have no plans for a new project…

M: When did you begin programming for MacosX? L: When I started with CocoaMySQL in 2001. I tried a bit with RealBasic first but that wasn’t really Mac OS X programming…

M: What was your first project? L: The first Cocoa project was CocoaMySQL.

M: MacOsXGuru’s final question are always of a broader range and a bit on the philosophical side… When did you begin developing software, and on what platform? L: I think I have made my first steps in programming on our first computer, a Commodore 128, when I was about 12. But those were some very simple basic scripts. Then I found back to programming when I began designing websites. I have started using PHP early when there weren’t a lot of sites using it, and I still think it’s the best language to do web scripting.

M: What do you think is the best operating system today, and why? L: I am very happy with Mac OS X. As a student of architecture I do a lot of graphic work and Macs are just great for this things. I worked for years with PC and wasn’t a big fan of the OS 8 and 9, but OS X works just fine for me. I love the fact that it is as simple as a Mac OS is expected to be, but as it works on a unix base I can change everything if needed just editing some text files, and it is really stable. And I can run Apache, PHP and MySQL on it to develop websites locally. For my server I’m using Fedora Linux which I think is great for webservers (as all types of Linux).

M: Is there an IT company who deserves to bite the bullet? L: Too many to name them all here ;-)

M: What do you think is the IT company most undervalued? L: All those developers of small but very useful applications which makes everyday computer work easier.

M: The one most hated? L: All those who produce software without thinking about what their users need. Those who add tons of new features every release, but features which most of the users rarely or never can use and which make it only slower, instead of adding features which a lot of users are missing.

M: The most loved one? L: For me the open source projects which made it developing software that is better than all their commercial competitors, e.g. Apache, MySQL and PHP. They show us that open source isn’t just software for those who can’t afford commercial software.

M: What has been the greatest IT revolution in history? L: Graphical OS’s, it made computers generally understandable…

M: What’s your programming language of choice? L: Objective-C/Cocoa for OS X and PHP for webscripting.

M: Is it one of those things that for the rest of your life you’ll always remember exactly what you were doing when it happened, or it didn’t impress you too much? L: You mean when I started developing CocoaMySQL? I can remember that rather good, when I first clicked on “Build&Run” and it actually opened up!

M: If Steve Jobs offered you his chair for one day, what would you do? L: I would force the engineers to finally get that G5 PowerBook working, or even better G6 PowerBook! ;-)

M: What is that you wish your computer could do, but it still can’t? L: A printer which actually prints what I see on my monitor, and a monitor which actually shows images as they are in reality.

M: If you hadn’t been a programmer what would you be doing today? L: I’m an architect and only a hobby-programmer, but maybe if I hadn’t studied architecture I would be a programmer today! :)

M: Is there anything you regret having had to give up to pursue your goals and dreams as a programmer? L: Actually it’s the other way round and I often have to give up programming because of my studies and other work.

M: If in a few years you could be as famous as Steve himself, what would you like people to say when asked if they ever heard of you: “Are you kidding? Of course I know who Lorenz is, he’s the one who …” finish the sentence as you like. L: This surely will never happen, but I would be happy to be the one who made the MySQL community a bit bigger by adding a few Mac users afraid of using the command line…

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